UNLV football, non-Power 5s could benefit from December signing period

Updated May 16, 2017 - 7:13 pm

As with anything related to major college football, we must first divide the garage between Maseratis and Mazdas.

But for once, the family sedan just might own an advantage over the fancy Italian machine.

Or at least not get lapped as often.

When names such as Nick Saban and Urban Meyer are so passionately against NCAA legislation, you know it must offer a little juice for non-Power 5 teams such as UNLV, which is where I believe things will fall with an additional signing period.

It was approved this month, a window from Dec. 20 to 22 during which high school seniors can sign national letters of intent instead of waiting until the traditional period that begins the first Wednesday of each February.

That’s right. Players can be signed, sealed and all but delivered before Santa Claus begins his annual trip around the globe.

I’m all for anything that might close the colossal gap between Power 5s and the rest of the collegiate landscape, even if it proves a minuscule difference, which this might.

In other words, it doesn’t mean UNLV coach Tony Sanchez is suddenly going to beat Saban at Alabama or Meyer at Ohio State or most others from Power 5 schools on players the big boys truly want, but perhaps it means non-Power 5 teams won’t be poached on recruits as much so late in the process.

Maybe it means the haves won’t swoop in at the last second so often and take from the have-nots while doing little to no work other than comparing bells to whistles.

Which pretty much works most of the time.

“We’re going to have to see how this (December signing period) plays out the first year,” Sanchez said. “It’s going to put a lot of pressure on some kids to make quicker decisions, so you hope they have a good support group around them. They’re going to need some really good guidance, because the process just got accelerated.

“I do think it will cut down on so many offers from (Power 5 teams), some which are real and most which aren’t as they just hope kids can pan out and develop over a senior season. I can see why a lot of Power 5s don’t want this. They usually want to watch a kid as long as possible.”

A major difference with the December signing period is when kids can take recruiting trips, a process that in 2018 can begin in April for high school juniors.

It’s a part of the legislation Sanchez believes might play against athletes, specifically should they use their allotted number of official visits before senior year and still not be certain where the best fit exists.

But as Power 5s begin filling up their classes earlier now — Jim Harbaugh at Michigan loves the new recruiting calendar, so you know Saban and Meyer and others are going to kick and scream into accepting and attacking it — non-Power 5s will have a much better idea of who might really be available come February.

Sanchez isn’t sure how many official visits the Rebels will offer during spring, believing teams in cold-weather parts of the Mountain West and Pac-12 and beyond are more apt to take advantage of hosting recruits at a far more weather-friendly time of year than standard winter months.

You worry about such things in Boise and Laramie and Fort Collins and Salt Lake City.

Not so much in Las Vegas and San Diego and Tucson and Los Angeles.

Saban will tell you the early signing period isn’t fair to those late bloomers who can use their senior season to improve enough that they might land a member of the mighty Crimson Tide, but you can cry us a river for a reasoning that might occur for a few kids each year among all the 5-star studs Alabama will now simply welcome in December.

Here’s the thing: Kids can still wait until spring to sign. They can still create all the normal level of social media drama and intrigue, still take a chance their dream school will believe in them enough to go the distance with an offer.

But the proposal includes reform for camps and clinics that could dramatically decrease cheating and unfair recruiting advantages, particularly with Power 5s with more resources to flaunt.

This isn’t a bad thing, and for the Mazdas parked in the garage of college football, it could prove to be great.

“The thing we don’t ever want to do is rush our evaluations,” Sanchez said. “It would be great to be preparing for or to be in a bowl game during the (December signing period). That would be a good level of stress to have every year.”

He’s understandably cautious about the new signing period, but this is how I see it: Anytime Saban and Meyer don’t like something, it has to be good news for the UNLVs of the world.

More Rebels: Follow all of our UNLV coverage online at reviewjournal.com/Rebels and @RJRebels on Twitter.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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